Posts Categorized: Youth Pastors

A Private Faith is A Deficient Faith

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

In a little over a month, I will head back out to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for the second residency of the Doctor of Ministry program where I am studying “Ministry to Emerging Generations.” Recently, we have been studying God and culture and it has been enlightening!

I have always been aware of the powerful influence of culture but I never realized the extent of our culture’s power in shaping our worldviews. Leslie Newbigin, in his book “Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture” opened my eyes to a worldview that many Christians embrace without question–the separation of the public and private faith of Christians. This isn’t about the separation of church and state; this is about the separation of a “private” faith from our public lives.

For the most part, our American culture is OK with those who have faith in Jesus as long as that faith doesn’t stray from our private lives. In this worldview, it is OK for God to be acknowledged behind closed doors, but once we bring Jesus into our public lives, we cross the line of what is acceptable and we are seen as violating the freedom and rights of others. As a result, many of us shrink back in fear and silence and then desperately fight to restrain God to our private lives. The problem is that God will not be restrained.

In this light, it becomes evident that a private faith is a deficient faith. Our faith cannot be limited to our private worlds. It must extend to our public lives if it is to be true faith. In fact, this faith must be extended to the whole of human history because the same Lord of our lives is the King over human history. It is possible for us to live, and speak, publicly as Christians but who also honor the freedom of religion that America grants its’ people.  If the youth of today are going to lead the church, this worldview embracing the division of the public and the private must be cast aside.

Maximizing the Impact of Camp Ministry In Youth Ministry

Posted by & filed under Alumni, General, Youth, Youth Pastors.

In a million years, I never thought I would be working at a Christian camp doing youth ministry.  Four years ago, I was convinced that Christian camps were dying.  I honestly thought Christian camp ministry was outdated, irrelevant and clueless.  I was sure that Christian camps didn’t understand their role in the big picture of youth ministry.  This is one of the many reasons I stopped taking my high school group to a Christian camp when I was a youth pastor.

Now I am the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Mount Hermon, a Christian camp.  I love my job and I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of camp ministry in the lives of students.  In fact, it was Mount Hermon’s vision for three vital partnerships that enticed me into doing youth ministry in a camp setting.  I now believe, more than ever, that youth ministry needs camping ministry. However, youth ministry needs camping ministries that understand their role in the big picture of youth ministry.

For camp ministry to maximize it’s impact in the lives of students and fit into the big picture of youth ministry, it has to foster and build three main partnerships throughout the year:

  1. Parent partnerships--Camps must realize that parents have the primary responsibility for discipling students.  First and foremost, youth ministry is not a camp’s job and it’s not the church’s job, it’s the parent’s job.  This means that camping ministry has the privilege of figuring out creative ways to communicate and partner with parents both before and after a student attends camp.  The more parents know about their student’s camp experience, the better.
  2. Church partnerships–Christian youth camps must also realize that they exist to serve the church.  Youth workers in the local church are the ones who will see, and minister to, these students the other 357 days of the year.  That being said, we can’t expect that 1 week, or weekend, out of 51 is enough to sustain students in their faith.  Any decision made at camp needs to be reinforced and worked out in the community of the local church.  This has to be kept at the forefront of our minds as we plan out and execute camp programming.
  3. Student partnerships–It’s great for camps to follow up with students if they understand the importance of the first two partnerships.  However, all of our work with students should strive to connect them with two main things: the Word of God and the People of God.  For camp to be more than just a mountaintop experience for students, they must get connected to God’s Word and God’s people.  If we can help them take steps towards doing this, we can help them draw closer to the God who loves them more than we could ever imagine.


CILT :: A Student’s Perspective

Posted by & filed under Alumni, Stories of Ministry, Youth, Youth Pastors.

This is a guest post by Sydney Boral, a senior in high school who has attended numerous youth camps at Mount Hermon.

Mount Hermon will always be near and dear to my heart because it is where Christ pursued me to be His disciple. This past summer, I experienced Ponderosa Lodge from an entirely new perspective; I was a CILT.  CILT, or Campers in Leadership Training, is a two week program in which high school students are trained to share the love of God with junior highers. As amazing as being a leader for younger girls was for me, CILT also provided me with the opportunity to dive deeper into my own faith, and to create bonds with other Christians in high school who truly love Jesus. When you’re a CILT, the entire Ponderosa staff pours their love into you constantly. Then, you are blessed with the chance to pour your own love into campers. CILT taught me a lot about what it looks like to not just be a follower, but a disciple. Serving God and others is so fulfilling, and at the same time you’re having so much FUN!

One of the most noticeable characteristics about being in a leadership role is the challenges you face. I’ve been a camper for seven summers now, and have always been terrified of the leap of faith. One day when I was with my campers at the ropes course, one asked me to be her partner for the jump, and without hesitation I accepted. I’m not sure why her request was so easy to answer, but I know that God was working through me. God really gave me countless ways to be a leader during CILT, and every boundary I grew past brought me closer to being a true disciple.

Another challenge brought on by CILT was knocking down your walls. The entire first week of CILT is spent training to be a leader, and bonding with your fellow CILTs because they are your family. We all had to open up about the tough stuff, but being able to admit your struggles brings you so much closer to God and shows you how much your “family” cares about you.

CILT was undoubtedly the best adventure I’ve ever experienced.

Ponderosa Lodge :: A Student’s Story

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

This is a guest post by Angela Mannino, a student who has attended numerous children and youth camps at Mount Hermon.

Christianity has been defined as many things. Some say hypocrites. Some say extremists. Some say goodie-two shoes. For me, Christianity has been defined as a relationship with the Creator of the universe and the God that “the waves and wind obey,” not a religion with a list of rules and regulations that I have to follow in order to please a deity that may or may not punish me.

It is because of Mount Hermon programs, mostly Ponderosa Lodge, that I have developed this definition. I have learned in my eleven years attending Mount Hermon camps that God is not about making us do things or punishing us when we are wrong—which is quite often. God is loving while powerful. God is compassionate while jealous. God is giving while just.

I wasn’t living a godly life. I didn’t really accept all the things that God commanded and said. I didn’t understand that the Bible is the Truth and that is final. There’s nothing I can do about that. Before last summer, I was much more liberal and less in tune with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t read the Bible very often (in fact, I resented the Bible), nor did I pray (at all, almost). I watched things I shouldn’t have watched and read things I shouldn’t have. I indulged in the devil’s delights more than I care to remember.

All the while, I was attending church, leading worship for elementary and high school-aged kids on Sundays and Wednesdays. I participated in church functions and invited people to youth group. I guess you could say I was a stereotypical Christian for a while; my hypocrisy and defiance was so insane, it’s scary just thinking about it.

This place is life-changing. I came to camp last year expecting to be let down by people and not be included, which is exactly what happened. I had thoughts that people didn’t want me around and were annoyed by me. I let that get the better of me and it showed. People avoided me because I was completely shut off and unwilling to be moved. It wasn’t until Wednesday night, D.O.S. night (discipline of silence) that things turned around. After ten years of lying and crying, complaining and hating, God washed over me in one small motion, but a huge movement occurred within me.

This place is safe. My heart is secure in the Lord because of the people He surrounded me with there. Those people have helped me keep my camp high moving and getting better. Through them, I see God’s grace and God’s love. Thank you, Ponderosa Lodge.

5 Lessons I Learned from Recess

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

Two weekends ago, Mount Hermon hosted a weekend gathering for youth workers called “Recess.”  Youth workers came together from the Bay Area and the Central Valley to play, rest, connect and learn.  I love learning and this weekend did not disappoint.  Here are 5 simple lessons I learned from Recess:

  1. Youth workers are some of the most amazing people in the world--Youth workers give up their time, energy & resources to hang out with students who don’t often thank them or even realize the sacrifice that’s being made.  Regardless, youth workers continue to be present with these students while modeling the love and grace of Jesus.  Not only that, but each youth worker who attended Recess gave up a weekend of their free time to learn how to be a more effective minister of the gospel.
  2. We need each other–I have a tendency to think that I can do things on my own.  Sometimes I am even so arrogant to think that I know better than any one else.  The older I get, the more I realize how stupid that kind of thinking is.  I was encouraged by spending the weekend with like-minded people who have similar passions and who are reaching and discipling youth with creativity.
  3. We all need seasoned mentors speaking into our lives and ministries--Our Recess speakers this year were Brian Berry and Duffy Robbins.  For me, it was a blessing just to spend time with men who have been doing youth ministry for years and who have learned from their failures and successes.  I could’ve spent many more hours with both of these guys just asking questions.
  4. You can never have too much training–The longer I am involved in youth ministry, the more I’m tempted to think that I’ve learned everything I need to learn.  Yet, I always learn something new when I read, go to conferences or spend time with mentors and other youth workers.  The old saying, “leaders are learners” is true.  I want to continue to learn as long as I’m alive.
  5. Volunteer youth workers are my heroes–I get paid to do youth ministry; it’s my full-time job and that job pays my bills.  Volunteer youth workers, on the other hand, have full-time jobs (or they are full-time students) yet they spend their precious free time ministering to students because they believe that they can make a difference for Jesus.  That blows my mind!

Because Recess was such an amazing weekend, Mount Hermon will be hosting it again in 2012 on September 28-30.  Mark your calendars and stay tuned for details!


Summer Camp Through the Eyes of a Student

Posted by & filed under Alumni, Stories of Ministry, Youth, Youth Pastors.

Ponderosa Lodge CILT Campers 2012


This is a guest post written by Evan, a high school student who attended Mount Hermon’s CILT camp this past summer.  CILT is a 2-week program for juniors, seniors and graduated seniors that focuses on leadership development.



Whenever I am asked to put my experience of CILT in a few words I honestly don’t know how to do it. But in general CILT did the unimaginable for me and my walk with Christ. A quick way I’ve been able to explain the experience for others back home is telling them how, for basically forever, I have had NO idea what I wanted to become or do with my life after high school; what college I wanted, what job, any of it. No clue. But I can honestly and full heartedly say, after the blessing of the two weeks at Mount Hermon’s CILT, it was the very first time something felt RIGHT. It felt like it was exactly where I needed to be.

I have been going to Mt.Hermon since primary week at Redwood Camp, and that place has been like a second home to me. Something that I realized is that I have always been provided FOR there. And the most beautifully amazing thing CILT gave me was the opportunity to provide for others and not myself…and honestly, building people up in Christ is the most beautiful and incredible thing to ever be apart of, at least to me. And I got to do that for TWO WEEKS!!!

I became so vulnerable and open with people I had only known for 3 days and then God stepped right in and made those into friendships that I’m still in touch with literally everyday to this day and I still care for them SO much.  I’ve seen God work through that in such ridiculous ways by bringing us together and it has been so so extremely cool. What was all the more rad was then going our separate ways into cabins of our own but still having each other as we put all our effort and strength pouring into these kids to bring them one step closer to Jesus.

Meanwhile, God himself was bringing us so much closer to him as well whether we knew it then or not. It’s that indescribable!

Beyond “The 28 Day Challenge”

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Bible Plan, Youth Pastors.

Summer is coming to an end and the school year is beginning.  We only have 1 week of youth camps left at Mount Hermon so we thought it would be good time to begin our “Beyond the 28 Day Challenge” Bible reading plan.  This plan is a way for us to make camp more than just a mountain-top experience and continue in the decisions that we made during our week of camp.  Join us in the challenge by reading the assigned daily passages and, if you want, work through the following 4 steps to help you process and pray through what you’ve read.  One of the best ways to do this is to write out your response to the steps.

Step #1 :: Read
Read the assigned chapter(s) for the day.  As you read, focus on what you do understand and don’t worry about what you don’t understand.  Underline any verses that surprise, challenge, encourage, teach or move you.

Step #2 :: Write
Pick 1 of the verses that surprised, challenged, encouraged, taught or moved you and write it out.  You can even write it out using different words (make sure you keep God’s original meaning though!).  The goal is to think deeply about this one verse and answer the question, “What is God saying to me in this passage?”

Step #3 :: Pray
Respond to God’s Word by writing out 1 prayer.  Based on the verse or verses you’ve focused on, how is God asking you to respond to Him?  Do you need to confess a sin, ask Him for wisdom, praise Him for who He is or thank Him for His gifts?  This is a time to write out a simple prayer to God.

Step #4 :: Share
Choose 1 friend to share 1 truth about God that you learned today, how you feel about what you learned and what you will do differently today as a result.

Feel free to share what God is teaching you here on the blog (in the comment section) or on our Facebook page.

The Bible plan we are reading through can be downloaded by clicking here.  In this plan, we read through the Old Testament every 2 years and the New Testament every year.

AMATA :: the Beloved of God

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

Listen up ladies! We have a few questions for you: Do you enjoy babysitting? Do you enjoy sleepovers with a large group of friends? Do you want to learn more about God’s incredible love for you? If you answered one or all of these questions with a heartfelt “YES” then continue reading…

Mount Hermon offers a two-week camp that is specifically just for you! Amata (which means “Beloved” in Italian) is one of the youth intensive programs for young women in 8th-10th grade. During your two weeks at Amata you’ll receive professional Babysitting experience as well as CPR/First Aid certification! You’ll use these skills as a way to serve the hundreds of families that come to Mount Hermon’s Family Camp each week. You’ll also spend your time living in a two-story house with other campers your age and the Amata staff. Talk about fun…sharing a house together, late-night talks and sleepovers, and exciting activities! There are four college-aged women who have chosen to spend a summer JUST WITH YOU; spending time with you, listening to you, and sharing life with you.

But most importantly, these two-weeks will give you the opportunity to know God in a deeper way. He loves you so much that He has chosen to call you His BELOVED. We want to journey this incredible truth with you, so that you’ll carry this with you when you return home to your family and friends. Amata is not just a mountain-top experience! It’s an opportunity to prepare, shape, and equip you to be the woman God has called you to be, His beloved.

Click here to learn more!  We look forward to meeting you!


ECHO :: Can You Hear It?

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

This summer Mount Hermon Youth invites you to take a step into the unknown–to try something a little different; to serve like Jesus; to live in a small community of friends; to discover what a true life of joy is all about; to ask questions and find answers; to examine the road you’ve been on and explore the one ahead of you.

Echo is a 2-week camp experience that will stretch you in all aspects and present you with opportunities to encounter Jesus in ways you never have before.  We will explore the spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.  Our pursuit isn’t to become more dutiful and religious, rather to become joy-filled and free people who live a bold life of loving Jesus together!

7 guys, 7 girls, 5 staff for 2 weeks on 1 mission–to encounter Jesus and be changed.

Don’t miss it!  Click here to learn more.


Safety @ Ponderosa Lodge

Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

We have received a number of calls from parents asking “How safe is my student at Ponderosa?”  Safety is one of our number one concerns at Mount Hermon.  Here is a look at some of the basic safety precautions we take at Ponderosa Lodge:


  • We get hundreds of applicants each year at Mount Hermon.  Applicants go through a rigorous application and screening process that includes interviewing, reference checks and background checks.  Counselors then go through 11 days of training at the beginning of the summer.  Additionally, each counselor is monitored throughout the summer by our leadership to ensure they are doing their jobs correctly and keeping students safe.  Each counselor also takes part in official evaluations with their supervisor two times during the summer.  Our number 1 concern is camper safety and we go to great lengths to protect the campers parents entrust to us.

    Camp Activities

    • We have so many great activities at Ponderosa–surfing, skating, kayaking, climbing tower, mountain biking, mountain scootering, zipline and swimming are just a few examples.  Our staff are trained extensively to oversee each of these activities.  Additionally, Ponderosa is staffed with 5 lifeguard/health aids and a nurse who are available to help out when needed.  We want students to have fun and be safe while doing it!


    • Ponderosa has a zero-tolerance policy on bullying.  We make this very clear to both staff and campers.  Counselors are specifically trained in how to watch for and respond to students who are bullying other students.  In the event that a student is being bullied, he or she can tell their counselor or a leadership team member and it will be addressed immediately.

    Camp Schedule

    • Every time block that we schedule has a purpose behind it.   We realize that 4 hours of free time a day for junior high school students is both overwhelming and can open the door to unnecessary trouble.  At Ponderosa, junior high school students spend the majority of the afternoons with their cabin groups and their counselors.  The goal of this is to provide structured “free” time.  During this time, students get to choose many of their activities but they are with a small group of students (6-8) and their counselor.  This provides more oversight and therefore more safety. It also gives our counselors intentional time with students to talk about issues of life and faith.  High school camps have an hour or two more of free time each day but even then it is intentional time where counselors are connecting with students at a deeper level.  During any and all free time, we have staff that are patrolling camp to ensure the safety of all students.

    If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.


    Boyz II Men

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    In the past few decades, the time period for adolescence has grown.  In the early 20th century, adolescence generally lasted 18 months and was defined as “being responsible for oneself.”  Mark Ostreicher, in his book “Middle School Ministry,” reports that sociologists and psychologists now believe that adolescence can, and often does, last 15-20 years (from age 11 to age 30).  Additionally, they have boiled it down to three main questions an adolescent must answer to become an adult.

    1. “Who am I?” (identity)
    2. “What power do I have?” (autonomy)
    3. “Where and to whom do I belong?” (affinity)

    When these tasks are “accomplished” and the questions are answered (on one level or another), one has crossed the threshold from adolescence into adulthood.  I believe this is also true when it comes to our faith.

    This summer Mount Hermon is doing a trial run of a program that will help 16-18 year old boys begin crossing the threshold from adolescence into adulthood in both life and faith.  In this two-week program, we will point guys to Scripture to find answers to these questions as they strive to become men who seek after the heart of God.  This program will be much more than a Bible study.  For two weeks, these guys will live together in Biblical community, they will encourage and challenge one another, they will be real with each other, they will grow together and they will leave knowing how to live as men of great character and integrity.  During this camp experience they will begin the process of answering the questions of identity, autonomy and affinity.  Steve Gerali, a veteran youth worker, speaker and author will be coordinating this trial run.  Feel free to check out his new book “The Crest” which is what this camp experience is based on.

    We are accepting ten 16-18 year old guys into our two-week trial run on July 3rd-16th.  The cost has yet to be set, but because it is a trial run it will be lower than our other camps.  If you are interested, please email me by clicking here.  Spaces are limited and they are expected to fill quickly.


    Education, Learning Styles and Annoying Posters

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    The traditional approach to education is summed up best in this “Rules for Good Listening” poster.  The message is straightforward: “Good students sit still, they don’t wiggle, they look forward and open up the 2 ears that God gave them, because God gave us two ears and one mouth so we would listen twice as much as we talk!”

    I don’t want to refute the theology of this statement (I will save that for a later post) but I do want to point out the damaging nature of this methodology of teaching.  This method of teaching assumes that all students learn the same way.  The problem is that research proves students have different learning styles and not all students will benefit from these “Rules for Good Listening.”  Not only that, but some students may actually be harmed by this method of teaching.

    One of the most popular models for learning styles proposes that there are three main types of learners.

    1. Visual learners :: Visual learners learn through seeing.  These students will watch the teacher’s facial expressions and body language.  They tend to think in pictures and appreciate diagrams, images, maps and hand-outs. When they are able to represent concepts with images, they can better understand meaning.
    2. Auditory leaners :: Auditory learners learn through listening.  These students are the ones for whom “The Rules for Good Listening” poster was created.  They learn best from verbal lectures and written information often has little meaning until it can be heard.
    3. Kinesthetic learners :: Kinesthetic, or tactile learners, learn through moving, doing and touching.  These are the students that are often misunderstood and can even be harmed by the concepts expressed in the “Rules for Good Listening” poster.  They don’t learn from sitting still, looking forward and listening.  This actually hinders their learning experience.  These learners learn best through a hands-on approach as they actively explore the world around them.

    The best teachers create lessons that are intentionally geared for all three types of learners.  It is much more difficult because it takes more time and mental energy, but it is worth it because the impact is much greater.

    4 Steps to Move Beyond Hanging On For Dear Life

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.



    I often wonder if people are just as entertained by me as my sons and I were entertained by these mice.  One of those little guys was hanging on for dear life as the wheel just kept spinning and spinning.

    I’m not much different than that little guy.  The wheel of life keeps spinning round and round–and sometimes it does it at break-neck speed.  Oftentimes I feel so overwhelmed and dizzy from the todos on my list, the projects I’ve taken on, the expectations that others have of me, the endless events on my calendar, the emails/phone calls I have to return and the responsibilities I have.  It just seems like I’m spinning out of control on the wheel of life with no end in sight.

    There are a few actions that have been helping me slow the wheel down and gain some perspective.  When I am disciplined enough to take these actions, life is much more manageable.

    1. Get a full night’s sleep :: Sleep is usually one of the first things to go when life is busy yet it is one of the most important things we do.  I used to view a full night’s sleep as something that weak people needed.  I am slowly realizing and embracing the healing, rejuvenating and refreshing discipline of getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
    2. Have realistic expectations :: I am a perfectionist and I want to do everything and I want to do it all at 100%.  Because of this, I have struggled with an unrealistic todo list every day.  I am learning to calendar 2-3 tasks that contribute to my overall goals each day and focus on doing those tasks before I do anything else.  This provides me with focus and a reason to celebrate at the end of each day.
    3. Exercise :: We all know that exercise is good for us but finding the time is often the difficult part.  I recently bought an inexpensive and portable exercise bike that I now ride while I’m watching TV.  I don’t feel as guilty for watching TV and I get exercise at the same time.  Not only that, but it often limits the amount of TV I do watch.
    4. Rest in God’s grace :: This is the hardest action for me to do but I continue to learn how vital it is to my life.  It is so good for me to remember that God loves me in spite of myself and not because of anything I have done or anything I will do.  This action step is simply stepping off the wheel of life and resting in God’s grace despite expectations, successes, failures and todos.  God ran the world before I was born and He will continue running it when I am gone.  He doesn’t need me.  This is just further evidence of His grace!


    The Small Print

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    On the way back from a Mount Hermon staff retreat, we stopped at a well-known fast food restaurant in the central valley of California.  One of the first things we noticed was this health-conscious sign about eating a balanced and nutritious diet.  I was fascinated by it, because fast food is not known for its healthy qualities.  However, what fascinated me most was the small print at the bottom of the sign.  I took a picture of it because I was so shocked it was there in the first place.

    This dampened any desire I had to eat there in the first place. All I got was a milkshake…and an epiphany.

    Every choice we make in life has a small print warning underneath it.  This is one of the many reasons we have been given God’s Word!

    • When we are tempted to sacrifice our faith in Jesus to date and/or marry someone primarily because of their physical appearance, the warning is: “ A beautiful person who consistently makes bad decisions is a lot like a gold ring in a pig’s snout” (see Proverbs 11:22).
    • When we find ourselves spending time with people who are leading us away from our faith in Jesus, we are warned: “You become like the people you hang out with” (see Proverbs 13:20).
    • When we begin to think too much of ourselves and our own abilities, the warning is: “Continued pride is detestable to God and it takes us farther away from Him.” (See Proverbs 16:5).
    • When we speak in anger trying to provoke an argument, the small print is: “The words of a fool lead to arguments and those arguments could very well lead to a well-deserved beating.” (see Proverbs 18:6).

    It’s both funny and disappointing to me that I can often pay more attention to a small print warning at a fast food restaurant than one in the Word of God.  My goal over the next few weeks is to approach each decision looking for the warning in small print.

    Here’s the cool part–there is ALWAYS a positive side to these warnings.  God warns us against certain actions so that we can experience His presence and His grace at a deeper level.  Isn’t that the whole point of a warning–to protect us from harm and lead us to a healthier, more fulfilling life?


    Creativity, Disney & the Imago Dei

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    Creativity can be enigmatic. Not only is it hard to define, but many people would not even consider themselves as creative. Yet, Scripture tells us that we have all been created in the image of a Creative God. Therefore, in one way or another, we are all creative.  So, how can we actually BE creative?

    Scott Belsky in his book “Making Ideas Happen” gives an example of the creative process of Walt Disney.   Disney had a three-staged process in creating and developing feature-length films.  He used three different rooms to create, nurture and evaluate ideas.  Whether you use three actual rooms or not, these 3 stages can be helpful to the process of creating.

    Room/phase 1: This is where true brainstorming occurs.  In this room, the team members are allowed to throw out any and all ideas.  There are no limits, no evaluation, no criticism–only ideas.

    Room/Phase 2: Here, the crazy ideas from room 1 are collected and organized.  The end result is a storyboard chronicling events and general sketches of characters.

    Room/Phase 3:  Room 3 was also known as the “sweat box.”  This is where serious evaluation and assessment comes in.  The entire creative team would critically analyze and review the project with no restraints.  Because the end product of Room 2 was created in community, one person was never the focus of criticism.

    Regardless of whether you are a youth worker creating a program, a parent planning a family vacation or a student working on a project, these 3 steps in the creative process are a great way to harness our God-given creative power.

    Ready or Not, Here We Go

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    Ponderosa's 2010 Derosa Characters

    We are so thankful for what God did in 2010 in our Youth Programs at Mount Hermon.  We witnessed students’ lives change as they encountered Jesus.  We were blessed with new church partnerships.  We continue to hear stories of God moving in students lives and families.  We were blessed with resources to raise our programming to the next level.  We were encouraged by students who committed to read their Bibles after camp in “the 21 Day Challenge.”  It was a great year.

    We are hoping and praying that 2011 will be even greater!  We just finished setting our 2011 goals and we are excited to both share them with you and get your insights, thoughts, wisdom and advice as we move forward into the future God is calling us to.  Here is a quick overview of our 2 primary goals for 2011:

    1. We will increase the number of students we impact :: we have so many great youth programs at Mount Hermon (Ponderosa, Conference Center youth, Amata, Echo, CILT) that we don’t want to be content with our past successes.  This isn’t just about having more students come to quality and effective programs.  That’s only a portion of it.  We also want to set students up to have “more than just a mountain top experience” by helping them plug into the Word of God and the people of God when they leave camp.

    2. We will increase the number of churches we serve while improving our level of service to current churches :: I truly believe that the church is the vehicle through which God is going to bring about His Kingdom.  This means that Mount Hermon youth programs exist to serve the church.  This isn’t just about expecting churches to come to our programs.  This is about us conversing with churches, seeing what the needs are and working to serve them in those needs if it is at all possible.

    This is just a quick overview.  If you have a moment, we would love to hear your thoughts and we would value your prayers.

    Here’s to a God-glorifying, Kingdom-advancing, life-changing 2011!

    Top 10 Programming Lessons Learned at Disneyland (part 2)

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    Charlie & Abbie on California Screamin

    In an effort to continue to increase the quality of our programming at our youth camps, the Mount Hermon Youth Team took a trip to Disneyland to learn more about excellent programming.  Many critics poked fun at our “field trip” but it ended up being an amazing experience.  After our day at Disneyland, we spent some time debriefing and we came up with the top 10 lessons we learned from our visit to Disneyland.  This is the second installment of those lessons.

    6. Darkness (and purposeful lighting) allows you to control where people look
    We noticed that almost every ride was inside so that the lighting was under full control.  Disney determines where you look with lighting.  It could be colored lights, spot lights or even black lights but they had full control over the focus of each ride.  The only inside ride we noticed that wasn’t dark was It’s a Small World which is so visually overwhelming that you don’t have time to look at anything else.

    7. Waiting in line is an opportunity to build anticipation
    In many amusement parks, waiting in line is a necessary evil that has to be tolerated.  At Disneyland, waiting in line is part of the experience.  Disney goes to great lengths to build anticipation for the experience to come as you wait in line.  They do this by capitalizing on all 5 human senses.  They are drawing you in and preparing you for the experience as you wait in line.

    8. Getting into the park is 1 transaction
    Disney makes it easy to get into the park.  You may have to wait in line but it only takes 1 main transaction to get into the park.  And once you are in, you are welcomed by bright colors, sounds (in our case it was a marching band) and smells.  You really do feel like you have walked into a different world when you walk through the gates.

    9. Transitions are important
    There are so many transitions at Disneyland and I never really noticed this until I was intentionally looking.  When you transition between lands/regions, you are very aware of it.  You walk through something (like a castle) and enter into a region that is themed differently.  This very clearly communicates that you are leaving one land and entering another.  On rides, movable walls were often used to transition from one section to another.

    10. If you can fool the senses, you can fool the mind
    I didn’t realize the extent to which Disney capitalizes on the 5 human senses.  There were recorded sounds such as jungle noises, fake radio broadcasts and thunder that added to the experience.  Music tone and volume were also used to control the mood.  The textures of the walls waiting in line for Indiana Jones made you feel like you were in a cave.  Lighting, or lack there of it, was used to control mood.  These are just a few of the numerous examples of this.  Disney drew us into each experience by capitalizing on the 5 senses.

    Top 10 Programming Lessons Learned at Disneyland (part 1)

    Posted by & filed under Youth, Youth Pastors.

    Shane, Abbie & Jenn in Toontown

    In an effort to continue to increase the quality of our programming at our youth camps, the Mount Hermon Youth Team took a trip to Disneyland to learn more about excellent programming.  Many critics poked fun at our “field trip” but it ended up being an amazing experience.  After our day at Disneyland, we spent some time debriefing and we came up with the top 10 lessons we learned from our visit to Disneyland.  This is the first installment of those lessons.  Even though I put all of this together, this research was a group effort!

    1. Employees are part of the Disney experience
    Employees are  not called employees; they are called “cast members.”  It doesn’t matter what your job is, you are a “cast member.”  Depending on what land/region you work in, your uniform is themed to fit the feel of that land.  On the Tower of Terror at California Adventure, cast members were not only dressed in character, but they acted in character.

    2. Everything is themed
    You would think this would be an exaggeration but it’s not.  Everything from the “cast members” uniforms to exit signs to trash cans are themed at Disneyland; and the theming is different for each land/region.

    3. Shooting things is fun
    This sounds seriously stupid but it’s true!  One of our favorite rides was Toy Story Mania at California Adventure.  On this ride, you aim and shoot at video targets with your shooter as you ride about in a double seated cart from video screen to video screen.  They even keep score.  Interactivity and competition are huge!  Their website says, “everyone’s a winner” but it’s not true.  Shane beat me…by over 50,000 points.

    4. Great scripting can redeem a low budget/outdated ride
    This is something our program consultant Murphy taught us.  The Jungle Cruise is a low-budget and outdated ride.  The tour guides make the experience!  Our tour guide spent the entire “cruise” making us laugh with cheesy puns and jokes that redeemed what would normally be a painfully boring ride.

    5. Branding is everywhere
    Regardless what you and I may think of this, Disney’s branding is everywhere.  And for the most part, it is tasteful.  After many of the rides, there are merch stores just waiting to capitalize on your experience.  After some rides, there are Disney-branded pictures you can by of yourself on that ride.  There is advertising all over the park (and outside of the park) for Disney-related movies, events and merchandise.  Even construction areas are marked off by walls that are tastefully branded so you can’t see the construction.

    Stay tuned for the final 5 program lessons we learned at Disneyland

    Mount Hermon Youth Summer Staff 2011

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    Are you looking to do something big this summer?

    Check out this quick interview with Brian, one of our youth summer staffers last summer.  Let him convince you to apply for one of our many summer staff jobs at Mount Hermon!

    You can find more information and fill out an application by clicking here.

    “What Does Mout Hermon Mean to You?”

    Posted by & filed under General, Youth, Youth Pastors.

    If you are in junior high, high school or college, we have a favor to ask of you. Today we are asking you, our Mount Hermon Youth/Young Adult faithful, to share your story!  We are asking you to submit a short blog post (250-450 words) answering one simple question: “What does Mount Hermon/Ponderosa mean to you?” We want to hear how God has used Mount Hermon in your life.

    Here are the top 5 Reasons to submit a blog post to encourage you to be a part of this:

    1.  It will be an act of worship–Any time we tell of God’s goodness in our lives, we are worshiping God.  Just look at the psalms.  God is glorified when we tell others what He has done in our lives.
    2.  It will encourage others in their faith–When we hear stories of how God has moved in the lives of others, we are encouraged in our own faith journey.  There are hurting people just waiting to hear a story like yours that will help lead them 1 step closer to Jesus.
    3.  It will help you remember–It’s a proven fact that writing things down helps us to better remember them.  If God has used Mount Hermon in your life, you definitely want to guard this memory so you can tell your children, your children’s children and your children’s children’s children…you get the idea.
    4. It will make you famous–So this one is not entirely true; it just sounded impressive!  We will, however, post a picture of you next to your blog post.
    5. It will enter you into a drawing for a $100 prize--Everyone who submits a blog post will be entered into a drawing for a $100 camp discount or a $100 gift certificate at the Mount Hermon bookstore (depending on which one you want).  We will conduct the drawing in late January/early February of 2011.

    If you have any questions or you want to submit a blog posting, email us by clicking here.

    Such a Great Cloud of Witnesses

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    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
    Hebrews 12:1

    I met a few of the “great cloud of witnesses” that Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us about this last weekend at our Revolution student leader’s retreat.  These 2 guys were only 17 years old and both were seniors in high school.  Who said that high school students were the FUTURE of the church??!!  If the church could become as passionate about Jesus as these 2 students are, there would be no stopping us!

    These 2 guys very humbly shared with me their daily routine.  Each weekday they get up at 5:30 in the morning.  As a sidenote, I can’t even remember the last time I was up at 5:30 in the morning on purpose.  They then meet at 6:30 am in a local coffee shop where they read their Bibles for the next 45 minutes sharing with one another what God is teaching them.  As another sidenote-I can’t remember the last time I was up at 6:30am on purpose.  Then, they head out to school. This is a daily routine for both of these students!  As I talked with them, I realized that it wasn’t a legalistic way of earning God’s love or favor.  They simply wanted to start their day off with God at the center so that their passion for Him would continue to grow.

    I left my time with these 2 guys encouraged.  I also left wanting to be more like them in their diligent seeking of Jesus.  I am realizing the more I can surround myself with people who love and passionately seek Him, the more it rubs off on me and the more I can rub off on others. I guess that’s the beauty of Christian community!

    Proverbs 13:20 is true–we become like the people we hang out with! I want to hang out with people who share the same passion for Jesus as these 2 seniors in high school.

    4 Disciplines to Remain Faithful to Jesus

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    Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
    1 Corinthians 16:13
    These words are some of Paul’s final commands to the church at Corinth.  It seems that he is summing up much of his letter to the church at Corinth.  His goal is to encourage the Corinthian Christians to remain faithful to Jesus.  These 4 phrases are just as powerful for us today as they were 2,000 years ago.  In them, Paul answers the question-How can we remain faithful to Jesus in a world that consistently calls us away from him?
    1. Be on your guard at all times (be watchful)–For the most part, jellyfish travel throughout the ocean at the mercy of the ocean currents.  Many of us live our lives like a jellyfish traveling throughout life at the mercy of the world and our circumstances.  Paul tells us that we can’t afford to do this if we are going to remain faithful to Jesus.  We always need to be on our guard against the enemy of our souls, sin, apathy, unforgiveness, our emotions, our flesh and worldly ways of thinking.
    2. Root yourselves in the gospel (stand firm in the faith)–We live in a world of entitlement–we are entitled to happiness, health, wealth, fulfilling relationships and a trouble-free life.  The gospel of Jesus Christ that is revealed in Scripture actually tells us otherwise.  The gospel tells us that the only thing we are entitled to is God’s furious wrath against sin.  Yet, God in His mercy, poured out that wrath against His Son so we could be in a right relationship with Him.  When we get this, really get this, we understand grace and as a result everything and everyone else is put into perspective.
    3. Don’t let fear get the best of you (act like men)–Courage isn’t a lack of fear; courage is facing your fear head-on and not letting it control how you act.  God will be faithful through the most heinous of life circumstances.  He will be faithful even in death!  We have no reason to fear.
    4. Embrace that victory is the only option (be strong)–There are no losers in God’s Kingdom. Regardless of what happens in your life, both good and bad, you will prevail in this life and the next.  This is not because of anything you have done (or not done).  It is only because of Jesus!  Eliminate self-pity and self-hatred and embrace the victory that is yours through faith in Jesus Christ.

    Meet the 2 New Youth Interns

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    Exciting things are happening at Mount Hermon this fall! This morning, we just commissioned 15 brand new interns who will serve here at Mount Hermon during 2010-2011. This means that we have 2 new interns in the Youth and Young Adult Ministries department.

    We recently said goodbye to Tyler Orender and Kelsey Paterson who have served Mount Hermon faithfully. Tyler is taying on at Mount Hermon and working in our Outdoor Science program up at Ponderosa and Kelsey has moved down to San Diego to be an Assistant Resident Director at Point Loma Nazarene University. The part of our intern program that is difficult is saying “goodbye” to people who are close to your heart. The good part, however, is welcoming new interns!

    Shane Henning is, by no means, a new face to Mount Hermon. This past year, Shane was an intern in the graphics department. Shane actually helped to create our two “Once Upon Derosa” trailers released to promo this past summer. He also was on summer staff at Ponderosa as the Activities Director. Shane is from Indiana and graduated from Taylor University. He believes so much in the ministry of Mount Hermon that he has been on summer staff at Ponderosa for the past 4 years. He is incredibly creative and loves ministering to high school students. I think Shane would be a career summer camp counselor if it was at all possible!

    Abbie Riley comes to us from Sambica, a camp in Washington. The past 2 years, she has served on staff at Sambica directing their Emerging Leadership Intensive Training Experience which includes both summer and year-round camps for youth. She loves students and is passionate about camping ministry. She came to Mount Hermon to, in her own words, “learn from a camp that reaches over 60,000 people a year…at multiple sites.” Abbie graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Corporate Communication.

    I am looking forward to an amazing year of serving Jesus and loving students with both Abbie and Shane. I can’t wait for you to meet them! If you’re in the area, stop by and say “hi.”

    Advice for Young Leaders

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    Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
    1 Timothy 4:12

    Paul gives Timothy, a young leader,  some powerful encouragement in this passage.  First, he tells Timothy not to let anyone dismiss or despise him because he is young.  Throughout the history of the world, there has been a tendency to dismiss younger people as significant leaders or influencers.  This happens both in and outside of the church.  I have experienced this firsthand (in earlier days, of course) and I’ve seen this during the years I’ve worked with students.  Paul knew this, so he challenged Timothy, and today’s young leaders in the church, to step up to the challenge to lead regardless of age.

    Now, if I were Timothy, the first question I would ask is “How?  How do I do this? How do I keep people from looking down on me and dismissing me as a leader?” Paul continues on to answer this question.  He tells Timothy to set an example for others to follow–specifically, in his words, in how he lives, in how he loves, in how he trusts and in what he allows into his mind and life.

    Set an example for others.

    Live as a pattern for others to follow.

    Live life in such a way that people look at you and want to pattern their lives after you because they catch a glimpse of Jesus.

    This is a great definition of Christian leadership.  In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul puts it this way: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

    The key for young leaders in the church, and ultimately every leader in the church, is to follow Jesus.  This seems ridiculously simple; and it is, in theory.  The bottom line is that we can’t lead people where we ourselves have never been.  To lead people in the church is to lead them to Jesus.  In order to do that, we need to be following Him.  When we are doing this, day in and day out, we will live lives that others want to pattern their lives after.  This is Christ-centered, God-glorifying leadership.

    To daily follow Jesus by reading His Word, check out our “Beyond the 21 Day Challenge” by clicking here.  To learn more about Revolution, Mount Hermon’s high school leader retreat, click here.